India is the country of festivals and every festival has a story behind it. Therefore, every festival has its own significance. Similarily, Bhai Dooj or Bhaiya Dooj or Bhau Bij has its own significance – as can be seen, unlike other festivals, it has different names in various parts of the country. But for the Hindus, this festival has acquired huge importance that cements the sister-brother relationship even further.
However, Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj both festivals mark brother-sister love but they are quite different from each other. For Raksha Bandhan it is believed that sister takes promise from brother to protect her while in case of Bhai Dooj sisters pray for the long life and prosperity of her brother.
The festival is the symbol of brother-sister relationship and is known as Bhai Dooj or Bhaiya Dooj in the entire northern part of the country. Though we observe it after two days of Diwali but only a few people know that it is not the part of Diwali celebration. It has the own aura.
There are some mythological stories behind it. One of them says, Yamraj, the God of Death, had visited his sister named Yami (Yamuna) at this day. His sister welcomed him by aarti and tilak ceremony, offered him dishes and sweets.
When it was time for Yama to return he said to his sister, “Dear Varni, you have welcomed me so lovingly. But I did not bring you a gift. Ask, therefore, for something and it will be yours.” So in return Varni asked from him that all brothers should remember their sisters on this day and visit them if they can, and that, on this day, all sisters should pray for the happiness of their brothers. This is how the custom of Bhai-duj, or bhai-phonta, came into practice.
Another myth for celebrating this occasion is that on this day Lord Krishna, after assassinating the Narakasura demon, goes to his sister Subhadra who welcomes him with the lamp, flowers and sweets, and mark his forehead with a holy protective spot.
Festival is also the second day of the Vikrami Samvat New Year, the calendar followed in Northern India (including Kashmir), which starts from the lunar month of Kartika. The first day of this New Year is observed as Govardhan Pooja that comes very next day of Diwali. The ages old ritual is known as Bhai Bij, Bhau Beej, or Bhav Bij in Marathi, Gujarati and Konkani-speaking communities in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, while in Bengali it is Bhai Phonta.
Nevertheless, in Nepal, people celebrate is as Bhai Tika and widely celebrated by Newari, Maithali, Tharu, Bahun and Chhetri people.